The screening process
Taking a screening test
Screening tests only take about 10 minutes. Currently routine screening involves a speculum-based test (previously called a smear). From July 2023 this will change to HPV primary screening. Find out about Changes to the test.
It is best to avoid having your test during your period (menstruation).
Here’s how it usually works.
- Discuss what is going to happen with the person taking your screen, and make sure they have explained it clearly.
- You can lie on your side or your back (whichever is more comfortable) with your knees bent up. Let the screen-taker know your preference.
- It’s up to you how modest you want to be – cover up with the sheet provided if it feels better.
- They will open your vagina gently with a plastic or metal speculum.
- They use a small, soft brush to take a small sample of cells from the surface of your cervix.
- Once that's done, you can get dressed.
- They’ll confirm how you will receive your results.
- Your test sample is sent to a laboratory, and checked for any cell changes.
- Your results will be sent to your screening provider after a couple of weeks.
- Further tests or treatment will be arranged if your results require it.
You may find it a little bit uncomfortable, but if you feel pain or discomfort at any time let the person taking your test know straight away. If cervical screening is routinely uncomfortable or painful talk to your health provider to discuss options.
Tips on making things easier
Everyone has their own way of making it work. Other women have shared these helpful ideas.
- Wear a skirt you can leave on.
- Use the sheet or blanket provided to keep yourself covered and comfortable.
- Ask for a female screen-taker.
- Request someone from your culture takes your screen.
- Try to breathe deeply and relax your legs.
- Try lying on your side.
- Take a friend or whānau for support.
- Get your test done with a friend.